Sam Mistretta Store, 1851 (Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish)
Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation (LTHP) announced its annual list of Louisiana's Most Endangered Places List for 2019. Since 1999, the Louisiana Trust has highlighted endangered historic sites and advocated for their preservation and protection. Listing these resources acknowledges their importance to Louisiana's history and culture and draws attention to the forces affecting these and similar historic sites statewide. The list is generated from nominations made by the public and aims to attract creative approaches and resources to see the sites saved and rehabilitated.
"Historic buildings and sites are the fingerprints of our communities, and it takes creative measures to preserve and protect them for future generations," says Brian Davis, Executive Director of the Louisiana Trust. "Strategic partnerships, tax credits and programs like LTHP's revolving fund can save buildings many people may consider too far gone."
Selections to the Louisiana's Most Endangered Historic Places List are based on their historic significance; the critical nature of their threat; and the likelihood to bring about a positive resolution to their situation or to those of similar sites. More information about the program, including nomination form and a complete list of sites may be found at LTHP.org/properties/most-endangered/.
2019 Additions to Louisiana's Most Endangered Historic Places List:
Antioch Baptist Church, 1903 (Shreveport, Caddo Parish) – This church's congregation was originally known as The First Colored Baptist Church, established on April 23, 1866 with leadership from seventy-three former slaves. In 1871, the congregation changed its name to Antioch Baptist Church. The congregation commissioned N.S. Allen to design this sanctuary that was completed in 1903. The structure was restored in 2000 but today is challenged with dwindling congregation numbers as well as water infiltration. Local partners hope to restore the building again to maintain a safe and healthy building as a community asset.
Autrey House, 1848 (Dubach, Lincoln Parish) – Absolom Autrey's family were pioneers from Alabama that settled in Louisiana in 1848, taking advantage of a homestead offer from the federal government. They built a double-pin log dogtrot using local natural supplies. The house remained occupied into the 1970s. After nearly a decade of idleness, it was donated to the Lincoln Parish Museum to interpret the pioneer lifestyle of Northern Louisiana. Insects, decay, and vandalism have led to a deteriorated structure in need of repair to maintain for future generations.
Bank of Pollock, 1909 (Pollock, Grant Parish) – The Bank of Pollock was designed by New Orleans/Monroe based architect, William Drago, featuring a prolific center arch entrance. The bank closed in 1925 due to embezzlement by a bank teller and never reopened. The building found reuse as a theater, jail, school, offices, and currently holds an art gallery and antique shop. The building suffers from water damage and cracked masonry.
Kisatchie High School 1920-22 (Provencal, Natchitoches Parish) – Built in the early 1920s to consolidate nearby one-room schoolhouses, the Kisatchie High School is a local landmark in need of major rehabilitation. This school is one of the schools that Caroline Dormon, the first woman employed in forestry in the United States, taught at throughout Louisiana, which inspired her to establish the Kisatchie National Forest. The school experienced structural damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005 and has since seen an increase in vandalism from trespassing. The Kisatchie Community Center is working to develop new uses for this site as well as a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Martin Gin, 1903 (Minden, Webster Parish) – Established in 1902, Micajah Martin built this cotton gin complex with a barn, grist mill, planer mill, steam engine, dogtrot house, and several out buildings. The Martin family produced cotton, corn, and ribbon cane. Today, the Martin family is working to maintain and keep this collection of buildings to honor their ancestors. Their vision is to see the buildings and the equipment relocated to a new location for restoration and education opportunities highlighting rural life in northwest Louisiana.
National Hotel, 1907 (Leesville, Vernon Parish) – Contributing to the Downtown Leesville Historic District, the National Hotel is located on a prolific corner across from the parish courthouse. The building's upper floor windows have been boarded up and a former second floor balcony has been removed. Local legend says that when the German prisoner of war camps at Fort Polk reached capacity, several POWs were housed at this site. The building is now vacant. The National Hotel is eligible for both state and federal rehabilitation tax credits to return it to a productive part of the community.
Old Doxey House, 1843 (Grand Chenier, Cameron Parish) – This Gulf Coast residence was originally built in 1843 but was expanded in the first half of the 20th century. The home was a refuge for travelers as it served as a hostel and refuge from gulf storms. One of its primary residents "Grandma Ida" opened the house for community events and local dances. In 2005, Hurricane Rita damaged the structure, ripping off the front porch and carrying away the cypress double front doors. Following the storm, the roof was replaced, and foundation repaired. The house is currently vacant, and descendants of the Doxey Family have formed a non-profit to help restore and reopen the site for public use.
Prince Hall Masonic Temple, 1924 (Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish) – Since the day it opened, the Prince Hall Masonic Temple was a centerpiece of African-American culture in Baton Rouge. Home to the Temple Theater, entertainment ranging from vaudeville to legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and many others performed here. The building is still actively used as meeting space by many local chapters, but it requires upgrades to its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing to improve operations and accessibility to all parts of the historic lodge.
Sam Mistretta Store, 1851 (Donaldsonville, Ascension Parish) – This building's origins are believed to date back to 1850, and it was once used as an infirmary during the Civil War and later as a saloon and brothel. To most in Donaldsonville, it was the Mistretta's corner grocer. It was vacant until Chef John Folse acquired the property in the early 2000s before donating it to the Donaldsonville Development District (DDD). DDD is working to revitalize their Main Street with this site as a key destination. Further funding is needed to take it to its final steps for rehabilitation to operate as a new Donaldsonville General Store and Museum.
Union Church, 1902 (St. Joseph, Tensas Parish) – The Union Church was started in effort to establish churches in areas were population was small enough where no one congregation could afford to build and maintain its own building, thus sharing the building among various denominations. Fundraiser concerts and activities were held to construct the sacred space at a cost of $3000 and an additional $800 on interior furnishings at the turn of the 20th century. The building was sold in 2007 and has since deteriorated with signs of shattered stained glass. Repairs and adaptive solutions are needed to make this a gathering space again.
A full site list and their locations can be found at www.lthp.org/properties/most-endangered/.
The Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation was founded in 1979 and works in all 64 parishes to advocate, promote and preserve historic places representing our diverse culture. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and for more information, visit LTHP.org or follow on Facebook (@LTHPreservation) and Instagram (@LouisianaTrust).
Contributed by the La. Trust for Historic Preservation